Although there is “increasing evidence” that universal health care improves health outcomes, many of the world’s lower- and middle-income countries have not pursued universal health care policies, according to a recent article by lead author Vin Gupta ’05 and three colleagues, published online in The New England Journal of Medicine. With that in mind, Gupta and his colleagues studied the adoption of universal health care in six countries — Chile, Mexico, China, Thailand, Turkey, and Indonesia — and the political, social, and economic factors that made the change possible.
The results, Gupta told PAW, are “more diagnostic than prescriptive,” but the research could play a useful role as the United Nations discusses new development goals at a summit that begins later this week. For example, the group found that “societal solidarity” (admittedly difficult to measure) was not a prerequisite to adding universal health care. Economic growth, on the other hand, was present in all six countries during the periods in which the government added universal health care.
Gupta said that more of the research, including details from individual countries and examples of “how they navigated common problems,” will be part of a new book, A Convenient Truth: The Politicization of Health Reforms and Electoral Success in the Southern Hemisphere. His co-authors include Eric Goosby ’74, a professor at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine who served as the U.S. Global AIDS coordinator in the Obama administration from 2009-13.
Gupta, a chemistry major at Princeton, attended medical school at Columbia, starting a path toward clinical practice. But a few years later, a Fulbright fellowship in public health took him to China and East Africa and kindled a deep interest in foreign policy and global health. Now, with his M.D. from Columbia and a master’s degree in international relations from Cambridge, Gupta is pursuing both tracks in his career.